I’m sure both of my parents could write a few novels about what they have been through the last few years with my dad’s stage 4 cancer diagnosis. They are the strongest people I know and have handled this trial with optimism, grit and determination. This post is about my experience with what it has been like to have my dad get this diagnosis. I know far too many of you have/are/will experience similar stories and it’s just so reassuring to know we are all here for each other.
My parents found out about my dad’s cancer back in 2017. My mom decided that she wanted to renew my dad’s insurance policy a year before they needed to. The insurance company sent a nurse to the house, took some tests and a week later my mom got the call at 8 am from the insurance company telling her that they needed to get to the doctors that day. We are all so incredibly thankful that my mom had this done when she did because it would have been too late otherwise.
It’s hard for me to write in logical paragraphs when it comes to really hard things so instead I’ll share some of the different experiences/feelings/thoughts I went through in bullet point format.
*I remember falling asleep one night sobbing uncontrollably (in the beginning we thought my dad just had a few months left) and having Andrew next to me rubbing my back and there for me in every single way possible. We had only known each other for 10 months at that point and I could see so clearly one of the many reasons why I felt God had led us to each other so quickly… up until I met Andrew, I had been as dependent on my parents as you could possibly be. They got me through so much and then boom, Andrew popped up in my life and I had the most incredible partner all of the sudden. He helped me so much to get through that time and to then be able to be there for my parents with whatever they needed. It would have been so so much harder without him.
*My dad’s cancer is something that really does help me to remember what is truly important here. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the small things that feel like they matter but don’t. People are what matter and all of that other stuff melts away when I remember to put things into perspective.
*When we first found out what was happening I dropped out of going to a race and had no desire to move. I remember during previous grieving periods in my life, I NEEDED movement and running/racing more than ever but with the grieving of my dad’s diagnosis, I just wanted to be in fetal position and not even see the sunlight. Grief is so interesting to me. You really never know what you are going to get. It changes just as soon as you think you have one stage figured out and it manifests itself in so many different ways.
*During the 2018 St. George Marathon my dad wasn’t doing very well and obviously couldn’t be at the race. During those last few miles when I was finally reaching my goal of a sub 3 I thought about my dad pretty much the majority of the way. I just wanted to be strong like him. I didn’t want to give up because he sure wasn’t giving up and I wanted to FLY! Having him there for the 2019 St. George Marathon doing SO much better and hearing him cheer and say, “ATTA GIRL” for me during the last .2 miles was the best feeling ever.
*A big part of the reason we moved 2 years ago to the house we live in now was to be closer to my parents. We went from a 25 minute drive to a 9 minute drive and that makes a big difference and I’m so grateful we get to see them so often.
*I still cannot eat chic-fil-a without thinking about those first few weeks of finding out about my dad’s diagnosis. There were so many days when Andrew and I would spend hours at their house and then on the drive home we would stop at chic-fil-a, order everything on the menu and eat our feelings in the car.
*Seeing someone that you love so much in pain and hurting is incredibly heartbreaking. I still have no idea how to handle those feelings because it is so hard but I do know that we have to lean into the pain… numbing our feelings doesn’t get us anywhere (I tried that with an eating disorder for years in the past) but we truly have to allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel. We were given emotions and feelings for a reason and using numbing habits to cope with them takes us farther away from healing.
*I think the biggest lesson that my divorce taught me was to trust in God’s plan. To trust that He knows what I need to learn and do to get closer to my potential. Sure there was a ridiculous amount of pain/stress/struggle during that time but that all took me to more love/happiness/growth than I could have ever dreamed of before it all happened. I remember feeling so angry for about a month (which is a necessary part of the grieving cycle too) after my dad was diagnosed because a man that has dedicated his entire life to loving and serving people had to go through so much pain and uncertainty. It didn’t seem fair that the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet had to experience so much sickness from treatments when this should be the time of life that my parents could be traveling and soaking in the joys from all of their years of hard work. I remember feeling a release of all of that anger one afternoon when I was sitting alone on my couch when I thought back to what I learned from my divorce to trust God and His plan for all of us. For whatever reasons, there are things my family needs to learn through all of this. There are ways that my dad is helping others through their trials because of his own trials. There is growth in relationships and more gratitude in all of the time that we do get together. I’ve seen God’s plan work out exactly how it should work out too many times in my life to not believe that His plan for us is happening right now too.
The future is unknown and the road is long but all I can control right now is doing whatever I can to help my parents and to enjoy each dinner/holiday/get-together/moment that I possibly can with my people!
I’d love to hear from you on your experiences with cancer in your life. Or hard things or any things you know that can help others through hard times!!